Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Climate change: Retreat

For years, scientists have been warning about sea-level rise due to climate change. Now, with global CO2 concentrations over 400ppm and the window closing on avoiding dangerous climate change and an unknown climate, the New Zealand government is finally acting on those warnings. It's strategy? Retreat:

Councils are going to be told not to build or approve developments or structures lower than 1.9 metres above the high tide mark under new advice on rising sea levels.

It's a half-metre increase on the Ministry for the Environment's previous advice a decade ago, based on new information showing sea levels will rise faster than anticipated.

The detail - and other new guidance for councils - emerged in a briefing document provided to a regional council and gives an insight into the Ministry's delayed official guidance to local government which was meant to be published last year.

It also refers to "retreat" as a planning option for areas facing an encroaching ocean - a step that would see land surrendered to the tide and communities potentially relocated.

The restrictions will apply to infrastructure and new builds, with a specific example of new coastal residential developments. There'll be lower limits for altering existing buildings or consenting short-use structures. But the net result is that people are not going to be able to build close to the present coastline, and those currently planning coastal developments are going to lose a lot of money. As for those who currently own homes on low-lying coastal land, the inability to change uses or make significant alterations (not to mention the threat of inundation) will decrease their value significantly. So I guess we can expect outraged coastal wankers to sue in a vain effort to hold back the tide.

There's further details on Denis Tegg's blog here. Scarily, the 1.9m limit appears to be an underestimate - the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expecting 2.5m, and given the way emissions are going, it'll probably get worse. But that's what happens when you ignore a problem for thirty years: it gets worse.